Blowers

Be sure to buy a handheld or backpack blower that's powerful enough for all your needs.

For many groundsmen and contractors, the handheld blower is indispensable. It can save hours wrestling with leaves in the autumn or tidying up after mowing and hedgetrimming operations. They are also useful for blasting away litter and have other uses, some quite innovative, such as removing dew and gravel from a lawn before mowing or drying off seating and synthetic sports facilities after cleaning or rain.
Petrol-powered blowers are chosen by professionals for their portability. These machines work by creating airflow. A small fan draws in air and then blows it out through an extended tube designed to increase the airspeed and focus the blast in the required direction.
Some models give users the option of fitting a kit to convert the blower into a vacuum for collecting small amounts of leaves and litter. The kit will have a bag that is carried over the shoulder. To ensure maximum use of the bag, look for a conversion kit that includes a mechanism for shredding the debris.
Where there is only likely to be small amounts of work to do with a blower, a handheld model is ideal to keep in the van or shed. Just grab it, do the job and put it back. Backpack machines, although more expensive to buy, are the choice of professionals with greater volumes of work — situations where it would not be economical to use a rake or brush — but where a wheeled machine is not available or practical.
Backpack models are heavier, so  always try before you buy. Pick a machine that has wide straps, carries the engine high on the user’s back and is well padded but with “stay cool” features that allow the back to “breathe”.
Blowing and vacuuming can be dusty, dirty operations. Manufacturers are well aware that the last thing you need is a machine that increases the unpleasantness of the task. In the past few years,  models have been developed for lightness, but still with a powerful air blast.
A number of brands now feature cleaner engines, which are better for the environment and the operator.
Two years ago, Honda was one of the first to look at fitting four-stroke engines to blowers to offer a quieter, cleaner alternative to the two-stroke machine.
As well as lower emissions, Honda’s GX25 mini four-stroke engine reduced fuel and oil consumption and lowered the handheld blowers’ vibration levels.
Around the same time, Komatsu Zenoah began manufacturing its blowers with the Strato-charged two-stroke engine. This retains the advantages of the two-stroke but with 73 per cent lower hydrocarbon emissions and a 30 per cent saving in fuel. The latest K-Z model, available from Allen Power, is the 71.99cc EBZ8000, capable of moving a whopping 19.5cu m of air per minute.
More recently, Stihl equipped its blowers with the Stihl 4-Mix engine. Cleaner, quieter and more fuel-efficient, it can be found on three backpack models — the BR500, BR550 and the most powerful, 90m/s blasting BR600.
In the Echo camp, the new ES-2400 handheld shredder and vacuum is noted for a 23.6cc two-stroke engine that has Carb2 emission compliance. Specified as having a maximum air volume of 660cu m/h in blow mode, it also has a shredding mechanism to reduce vacuum-collected debris at a ratio of 12 to 1.
You may have noticed that those three new ranges all quoted different measurements. You need to be aware of this factor when comparing potential purchases and have a calculator ready to do some quick conversions. Some manufacturers will refer to airflow in kilometres per hour, others in metres per second. Some will specify the maximum air volume, usually in cubic metres per hour, but some per minute.
As a guideline, look for machines with air speeds in excess of 65m/s or volumes of at least 660cu m per hour if you need to shift damp leaves and litter. Really stubborn, soggy leaves may take up to 70m/s. Be aware, too, of the engine size (cc) and/or output — usually given in kW or hp — as this will indicate the power and weight of the machine. The more powerful the machine, the heavier it is likely to be — although that’s not always the case and a well designed backpack can alter the perception of weight altogether.
Vibration levels and noise are also issues to investigate and machines should be easy to fuel up and start.
Remember to ask about servicing and warranty details — and check that you have the required personal protection equipment in terms of ear and eye protection and gloves.

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